Dear Fellow Iconographers:
Following up on the blog from last month where I included the links to Iconographer Aidan Hart’s articles about Icon writing: “Introduction to Principles of Icon Training, and Principles of Icon Training Part 2 , another link has been recently published on a Russian website called mmekourdukova, which I also include here: “The Icon: Truth and Fables” by Irina Gorbunova.
Aidan Hart’s excellent articles attempt to define important principles in the training of future Iconographers, and I suggest reading each of these in order to form your own opinions, and discuss in class the important aspects of each article to your own Icon writing. I think it’s important to keep an open mind and respect the calling of each person who has interest in Icons or creating Icons. In the Russian( or Ukranian) article there is an element of mocking and sarcasm that I find detrimental to the humble and prayerful attitude necessary for Icon writing. But please read, and add your own thoughts and comments.
These two recent articles are only relevant because there are more people today interested and wanting to write Icons than in the previous century. There can be many causes for that, but I like to think that as we explore our spirituality and gain a closer relationship to God, we need and want visual images that bring us fresh revelation of His love for mankind, his promises, His wisdom and faithfulness. As we regularly bring these qualities of holiness to mind in our daily lives, we can then integrate them and share them with others around us.
It is often said that Icons are “windows” into the heavenly world. When we look through those “windows” we see heaven, and are more able, as St. Paul advised ” to focus on whatever is good”. Truly a challenge in todays world.
The other attractive aspect of Icon writing to me is that of “passing on” to the next generation all that I can offer in terms of living the Gospel message through Icon writing. Investing in the younger generation is a goal worthy of Icon writing in my opinion. But how? How and what kind of an Icon be created that will draw them in? Good questions to ponder as we work on our Icons.
The recent Icon exhibition and pipe organ concert that I organized for the Albany, New York area at Westminster Presbyterian Church, was an experiment to see if contemporary New Yorkers would respond to Icons as art and vessels of God’s presence within the Byzantine context of worship with the five senses. A lot of this was new information to some of the people, but familiar to others. People came who simply wanted to see the Icons, and people came to hear composer and organist Al Fedak offer a phenomenal program of music played with a world class pipe organ.
I gave the introductory talk, introducing the concept of Byzantine worship, and Al Fedak explained the contemplative and meditative nature of the pieces he chose, and he also invited people to walk around, view and interact with the Icons. My students and I who created the Icons were available during intermission and at the reception following to answer questions and help people understand more about what they were viewing.
It was truly a memorable evening as we were lifted up and carried individually and collectively in worship on a Friday night in Albany amongst the community of saints! Icons on a mission!
Hope you all enjoy this beautiful summer, Happy Fourth of July!!
No Monday night Icon class on July 4!!
Please visit my website for information on upcoming Icon classes and retreats.
Here’s a link to my Art/Icon Facebook page
Hello Fellow Iconographers:
This month, on June 24 at 7PM, my advanced class of Icon writers and I will be sharing some of our newest Icons at a special organ concert by Al Fedak at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State Street, Albany. The concert is at 7PM and all are invited. Free will donations will be accepted.
I’m very excited about this opportunity to share our new work in the context of an amazing organ concert, and an added joy is the Icon Coloring Book the students are putting together for the concert and beyond. We are using our original Icon drawings and including a short description of that Icon. Coloring books are so popular these days for adults and children. It’s a great way to center your thoughts for a few minutes and come up with something creative. We are making the coloring book to be user friendly to all age groups and will be asking for a donation to help with printing costs. They will be amazing!
More local news: the Icon writing retreat at Holy Cross was really wonderful. Such a great group of people and a wonderful setting to learn and practice in. We were able to join in with the rhythm of daily prayer with the monks – heavenly!
Here’s a video Michael made for us of that retreat:
One last thing: there are two rather long but important articles that I would like to share with you all about the correct schooling of Iconographers. These links are to The Orthodox Art Journal blog:
For my part, the revelation I experienced when first exposed to Sacred icons was that they embodied the principles of good art. In my art school training, those principles were not presented, although other important ones were. I am interested in hearing what each of you think about the articles.
“We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road.
We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load…
When we sing to God in heaven we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together, of Christ’s love and agony”
excerpted from Celtic Daily Prayer, Northumbrian Community.
Peace, love and prayers,
Dear Fellow Iconographers:
How do we meditate and contemplate God through the Icons? A good question now that at least more than half the world I live in here in upstate New York associates the word “meditation” with Eastern philosophy.
But Icons have a long history of being used in contemplation and meditation, and we specialize in bringing the valuable truths of the past into our present time. Mystical Eastern spirituality has as its aim for the Icons “to open the heart in contemplative prayer to the transforming vision of God’s Glory.” The Glenstal Book of Icons.
Carl Jung wrote extensively on the power of symbols on our unconscious minds. Symbolic imagery in Icons helps to bypass our intellect and send a message straight to our hearts. For example, I can’t see an image of Mary and the Christ child without immediately identifying with the the Christ Child, and sensing what it was like to be mothered by the gentle, sweet Mary, or identifying with Mary and deeply experiencing what it was like to hold Christ in her arms and nurture him so that he could flourish. Whenever I see that image I think of my newest painting or Icon and ask in prayer, how can I be Mary to my painting? How can I be the Christ child in Mary’s arms to my art work? Each time, in contemplation and meditation new facets and ideas come as a result. Ideas I would not have had otherwise.
“Through the symbolism of the icons, access is gained to the absolute otherness of God in the silent union of mystical prayer: one goes through the sense of sight to the one who is beyond all vision. The meditative work demanded in absorbing the imagery of the icons is essential if prayer is to reach such a state beyond ideas, images, and acts- beyond the work of the head. Only thus can the prayer we make with the body and the mind become a real “heart work”, a deep transforming union with God in love. The mystical traditions of Christianity, East and West, all teach that such prayer is the only source of inner peace and stability. It is the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field, of which the Gospel speaks. Matthew 13:44-46″ The Glenstal Book of Icons, Gregory Collins, OSB
The Saint Luke’s Guild of Iconography will be sharing our newest Icons with outreaches to the community this spring and early summer. We will try to share the stories of each saint in our Icons as well as have dialogue with the public about prayer and meditation with the Icons. The first two venues are planned to be: Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, 1st Presbyterian church in Hudson. We plan to create a traveling exhibition so if your church would like to host one, and perhaps hear a lecture on Icons, let me know. “Never forget the joy of spreading Icons throughout the world”!
RECOMMENDED SOURCE FOR ICON MATERIALS:
Natural Pigments is an excellent source of tempera materials, gold leaf, anything you need to make Icons- they probably have. They also have a section called “articles” another page on their website that is full of useful materials information.
UPCOMNG ICON WRITING CLASSES:
Albany, New York Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chestnut St., Monday evenings 6-9PM. Class size is limited-email to ensure space.
Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY May 6-8 Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon, Introduction to Icon Writing.
Here is a video that my husband, Michael who most of you know, made recently about art and the Creator.. Hope you enjoy it!
Until next month, be blessed!
Hello Fellow Iconographers:
Fall has been warmish here in the Hudson valley, with the result that color on the trees has stayed with us a good long while. If it didn’t signal winter, I would love it :).
The Introduction to Icon Writing Retreat at Saint James Church on Madison ave in NYC was a joy – such great people, eager to learn more. I hope we all meet again soon. Don’t forget to practice drawing and tracing the Icons before the Renaissance period. Your skills will improve dramatically by our next class if you do!
The weekly Icon Writing class in Albany now meets at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State Street, Albany. The class meets Mondays, 6-9PM. Email if you’d like to attend. For most of 2015 we have been working from Aidan Hart’s book “Techniques of Icon and Wall painting”. We have also been working a lot on color theory, particularly theory from the early Greeks as well s the Old masters as it pertains to Iconography. For 2016 we will focus on drawing, with an emphasis on regular drawing practice and learning more concretely the principles of sacred geometry and inverse perspective. Most of the people in the class are advanced and are working on their own Icons all the while learning to apply these ancient concepts in greater detail as they go along. It’s a stimulating and interesting class. We also pray at two regular intervals as well as privately while working. Such a joy to be in that atmosphere!
The St. Luke’s Guild of Iconographers (that class is included in the Guild) has applied for an exhibition at Siena College, and is working on a traveling exhibition of our Icons for 2016. We believe in “the joy of spreading Icons throughout the world”!
Here are some useful links for new Iconographers:
Recommended Icon books visit my website for a list.
A short video showing the steps of writing an icon that I found on youtube.
Please keep us in your prayers, as you are in ours,
The Beginning of September was the start of our trip to the UK for a family wedding in Leeds, but we were able to make a detour to Shropshire and interview Aidan Hart, Iconographer and author of the book we use in Icon writing class: “Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting”, for Yale University Radio.
I was so happy that Aidan could make time for us, and upon leaving he said that he had just completed a large Icon for a church in Leeds! We were in Leeds at Michael’s sister’s home about 15 minutes when we realized that church was a fifteen minute walk- so off we all went. The icons were beautiful, and Father Michael of St. Urban’s invited us to come the following morning to his other church, also in Leeds, to see another Aidan Hart Icon. Once there, we were amazed to see the 16′ fresco of the Transfiguration that Aidan had recently completed – in ten days according to Fr. Michael. It is the largest commissioned fresco since the Reformation, he told us.
Our next travels took us to Venice to see the Biennale and the wonders of the Byzantine Cathedral of San Marco. I’ll be giving a gallery talk this Saturday, Sept 26, 6-8pm at the McDaris Gallery on Warren St. Hudson that will touch on the Biennale and Byzantine art. (You’re all welcome to attend!).
From Venice, we got to Rome, where we stayed at a convent within walking distance of the Vatican-our destination! God blessed me with achieving my heart’s desire to give Pope Francis the portrait I had done of him! At breakfast, the nun suggested that I might give my portrait of the Pope to him if the guards would help me. By God’s grace, we met a friendly Italian music composer at breakfast who offered to walk with us to the Vatican. after Mass, he began asking the guards around the Vatican if I could give my portrait to the Pope. He pleaded eloquently, in Italian, to seven sets of guards! Finally I was able to write a note to accompany my gift and the last guard promised that he would personally deliver it to the Pope the next morning! I was the happiest I could be! We had such a wonderful trip but that was the highlight for me. Seeing the Sistine Chapel again and the architecture in St. Peter’s Basilica, too, impressed me with a sense of excellence that can only be experienced in that place.
So, back to earth, the Albany advanced Icon writing class has changed venue and is now held on Monday nights 6-9PM at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State St., Albany, NY.
Also coming up is the Introduction to Icon Writing Retreat at St. James Church on Madison Ave, in NYC, Oct 16-18. Registration is still open, email Grace Beecham at: GBeacham@stjames.org to register.
Stephan Rene will be lecturing at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts on Coptic Iconography.
British Association of Iconographers will have its annual members exhibition October 14-16 at St. Saviour’s Church, St. George’s Square, London.
Until next month, be blessed,
“”A full reward will be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” Ruth 2:12
Hello Fellow Iconographers:
Such a beautiful summer. God’s creation is never so felt and experienced as in the beautiful summer months and upstate NY has been in a sweet weather pattern for most of august with beautiful sunny warm days.
Our Saint Luke’s Gild is comprised of eight students, several of whom have studied Icon writing with for several years. The emphasis that I bring to the sacred art of Icon writing is that of color theory, fine art , and sacred geometry principles in composition. The work of the guild members is unique and interesting, bringing both the spiritual qualities of prayer and sacred reading in an integrated approach to the creation of an icon with good fine art principles as well.
The Guild has a Facebook page: We are an ecumenical community of artists and artisans who are committed to making art that is reflective of a deep Spirituality and Faith in God. We do this primarily through the practice of writing Christian icons and studying the historical background and hymnody, and lectio divina relationships within the visual imagery of iconography. We believe in the didactic value of icons and engage with prayer as part of our painting practice and have exhibitions of our work in order to engage our community with God’s presence and action of His Holy Spirit at work in our Icons.
This month I wanted to mention one of the guild members: Jennifer Richard-Morrow, who is a fine artist, specializing in pastels, oils and icons. She is a long time member of Saint Vincent’s Church in Albany where she serves as a member of the funeral ministry, helping with the funeral services, particularly with elderly people who have no relatives or few friends left.
Jennifer has also had a lifelong interest in local New York history and has worked as an historical interpreter for the State at upstate Historic Houses and museums. She is currently on staff at Thomas Cole House in Catskill. Her Icon of Kateri Tekakwitha is one of the most historically accurate ones in existence today.
On September 14, we will be moving the location of our Icon writing class to Westminster Presbyterian Church on State Street in Albany, NY. We meet on Monday evenings and it is recommended that interested people take an introduction to Icon Writing class with Christine before starting the Monday evening class.
UPCOMING INTRODUCTION TO ICON WRITING CLASSES
St. James Episcopal Church Fri evening, 6:00 – 9PM, Saturday, 9-5PM -Sunday, 1:30-5:00PM October 16-18th Cost $215 includes materials and lunch Saturday. Email Grace Beecham to register: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
INTERESTING ARTICLE ABOUT GREEK ICONOGRAPHY
The following excerpt is taken from The Orthodox Arts Journal blog, and I include this because internationally many of us Iconographers have a similar approach – that of bringing forward the good from the past, but not slavishly copying. The task of creating a fully authentic 21st Century Icon is before us.
“Kontoglou and the rest of the 30’s generation where not turning to the past out of conservativism, but as a step to redefine the path of Greek art.
He was interested in reviving the orthodox aesthetic that had been heavily compromised by Western naturalistic ways of expression. In this aspect he was a real revolutionary; he managed to overturn the established church painting norms of the time (which was heavily influenced by the so-called ‘Munich painters’) by letting in, a “strong breeze from the east”. It was much later in his career, I believe, that his teachings were over-systematized. This led many of his followers to a stagnant and uninspiring way of painting icons based on mere copying with lack of artistic personality.”
Another Greek Iconographer in this article is Spyros Papaloukas who has another interesting approach to the creation of an authentic contemporary Icon, and here again, I quote from the blog :
Spyros Papaloukas saw in Byzantine art elements that were critical to the modern art movement and in many cases realized that solutions to artistic problems posed by his contemporaries were to be found in Byzantium. In several cases these gave him the answers to formal problems that were vital to painters of his time. Flatness and the adherence to the two-dimensional character of a painting, the possibility of the coexistence of multiple view points, the vital part that color played as an expressive and not merely descriptive element – all these were characteristics that modern painting shared with Byzantine art. This has been noticed even by modern painters whose art had no obvious religious focus such as Malevich and the other Russian avant-gardes, or like Henri Matisse. Matisse made a statement very much in accordance to Papaloukas, about 20 years later, in 1947, when he confronted for the first time Byzantine icons on his trip to Russia: “It was before the icons in Moscow, that this art touched me and I understood Byzantine painting. You surrender yourself that much better when you see your efforts confirmed by such an ancient tradition. It helps you jump the ditch.” You can read the entire blog and see the color illustrations here.
Thank you all for reading, and we ask your prayers for us in this work.
Christine Simoneau Hales
Dear Friends and Fellow Iconographers:
It is an exciting time to be writing Icons. The inspiration of Andrei Rublev writing the great “Holy Spirit” Icon as a symbol for unity – a unity that was so needed in his country at that time, is applicable to us all today. What are the Icons our culture NEEDS? What are the issues that need to be addressed in prayer and how can we make timeless images that can help to focus the prayer of a nation?
After attending the icon Workshop held at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC, led by Philip Davydov, I am inspired even more to explore this idea of an American Iconography. In light of the recent events in Charleston, SC. I feel an urgency to address the needs of our country in prayer and Sacred Imagery.
Dutch Sheets: “I have great hope for America because the depth of a fall never determines God’s ability to restore. I’m not afraid of the powerful strongholds because size and strength are completely irrelevant when measuring His ability to deliver. And I’m not intimidated because statistical odds, whether of success or failure, cease to be relevant when God is involved. His limitless ability negates the very concept of “odds,” and trumps all other winning hands.”
Just a short time before the Charleston shooting, a conference on painting Sacred icons the twenty-first Century was held, also in Charleston.
Here is a link to the “Living Tradition” Symposium organized by the Orthodox Arts Journal in Charleston, South Carolina. The ideas expressed are interesting ones to thoughtfully consider. It’s my opinion that it would have been good to have some American women Iconographers as well as some of the talented Romanian and other InternationaI Iconographers present to represent their views as well.
In a recent article in The New Liturgical Movement, noted Iconographer Aidan Hart wrote an article entitled “Diversity within Iconography – An Artistic Pentecost”. Here is an excerpt:
“But where does the mean lie between unspiritual innovation on the one hand and mere duplication on the other? Genuine variety in liturgical art occurs when the iconographer unites spiritual vision with artistic ability – energized with courage and the blessing of God. Vision without artistic ability produces pious daubs. Not every saint can paint icons. Although icons are more than art, but they are not less than art.”
This is a blessed time to have such great artists and Iconographers working together to create an authentic sacred art for the twenty-first century. I feel called to encourage community amongst iconographers, accepting our differences and celebrating our shared strengths. Very much like Pentecost, we can all receive the Holy Spirit but God will give each of us a language that can speak to our countries.
Locally, one of my students, and a member of the St. Luke’s Iconography Guild, Dahlia Herring, has transformed her contemplative approach to Iconography into action:
“A Refugee Art Exhibit- Resettling In Albany”
Through art work and written stories, the children from some of the most war-torn countries on earth, including Burma, Iraq and Afghanistan, express what it means to leave everything familiar and start a brand new life in the United States. These young artists eloquently and directly voice their hopes and disappointments, their fears and joys as the begin their new lives and education in Albany. The exhibit will be in the City Hall Rotunda until June 30th. You can find pictures of the Open House for this exhibit on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/USCRI.Albany. A Refugee Art Exhibit: Resettling in Albany was organized by the Capital Region Refugee Roundtable (co-chaired by Dahlia Herring) and the Albany Office of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
Also Local News: Albany Icon Writing Classes Monday nights June 22, NO CLASS June 29, . For July, Classes July 6,13, 27 ( No Class July 20.)
Also NOTE: Another member of the St. Luke’s Iconography Guild discovered a pigment company in California that has good pigments at a reasonable cost. Worth looking into! Agulis Pigments :firstname.lastname@example.org
Look forward to hearing from you and have a blessed summer.
Hello Friends and Iconographers:
Celebrating the end of a long cold winter by starting new Icons! I’m hoping to get started on my Saint Brigit, one of the most remarkable Irish Saints of the fifth Century, by the first of May. Brigit saw God in nature and was said to have believed the dew, particularly in the month of May, was holy and cleansing.
I’ve finished a Christ”Not Made with Human Hands” Icon that will be in an exhibition of my landscapes at the Chatham Bookstore, opening May 8.
Each month in this blog, I hope to feature an Iconographer and his/her work, so that we can become familiar with the depth and breadth of Iconography as it is being practiced today. This month’s featured iconographer is Peter Pearson, the author of “A Brush With God: An Icon Workbook”. I always love seeing his recent Icons- truly beautiful expressions of his life in prayer and community.
From Peter: “For the last 45 years, Byzantine icons have been a passion and driving force in my life. I love looking at them, studying them, praying with them, and painting them. Even now, after all this time, I’m pretty sure I’ve only scratched the surface. Rather than seeing icons as some lost and tragically frozen art form, I see them as a dynamically evolving part of the Christian witness through the ages. They have been a part of my contemplative practice, especially in the painting. That’s the place where I dissolve and there is only the brush stroke and the prayer. Through the icons I paint, the books I have written, and the classes I teach, I get to share this amazing adventure with others and I love it.
As an iconographer who uses contemporary materials (acrylic paints), I am often challenged to defend my practice and that’s a bit exhausting. The witness of the centuries testifies to the fact that in every age, iconographers have used many different media to created these holy images. For me, as well as for many others, the point is prayer and not what the paint is made of. Like one of my teachers, Phil Zimmerman always says: “You can make a religion out of anything, including eggs.” I prefer not to and it’s working for me.”
For information on his workshops and full bio visit Peter ‘s website : peterpearsonicons.com.
Just a passing news note: My FB friend Dylan Hartley posted that he and Aidan Hart are in Rome visiting the Pope in honor of an Icon Aidan did for him. Praise God! I’m so excited for them!
And lastly, I’m offering a weekend Introduction to Icon Writing retreat :
INTRODUCTION TO ICON WRITING June 12-14
Dates: June 12-14 Christian Community, 10 Green River Lane, Hillsdale, NY 12529
We will be writing the Saint Michael Icon in the Russian/Byzantine tradition with egg tempera and gold leaf gilding. We will be painting Archangel Michael. Weekend Retreat: Starting Friday night 6-9PM, Saturday 9am to 5pm and Sunday 1-5PM Mid morning and mid afternoon break, lunch provided, It will be fast paced, with demonstrations and individual teaching instruction. Cost : $215.00 Includes meals and materials. To register email: Christine@newchristianicons.com, or email@example.com.
“Those who have cleansed the eye of their soul and are capable of seeing beautiful things make the visible become a springboard for the contemplation of the spiritual” Gregory of Nyssa
Blessings and love,